When my then 37-year-old daughter (Skate At Home Mom to her derby fans) and her friend, LaVallee of the Dolls, started Kingston’s first roller derby in 2010, I initially wondered where I, as a feminist mother, had gone wrong.
What on earth could roller derby have to do with women’s empowerment? I asked myself. And, isn’t it awfully rough? (Answers: Lots and yes.)
But then, I attended the first game of the Kingston Derby Girls, an exhibition bout that brought 2,300 fans to the arena. When my up-to-this-point-in-her-life mild-mannered daughter roared out onto the track, waving an apron over her head and throwing it to the crowd, my attitude started to change.
Feminist derby mother
I attended every game I could, even going to out-of-town matches. Before long, I had become one of those mothers we usually associate with kids’ hockey, screaming from the stands for my daughter and her teammates. When my grandsons and I watched an away game in which she took a major hit to her leg (but kept on skating), we made the 3-hour drive home, not realizing until she went to the hospital the next morning that her ankle was broken.
I became a huge fan of roller derby as a form of feminism because of what I saw.
I saw women of all shapes and sizes, all ages, all class backgrounds, with varying levels of education and very different politics work together to make themselves as good as they could be. They trained night and day to increase their physical strength and endurance, always cheering one another on.
I saw women in the derby support one another through childbirth, sickness, relationship breakdown and child-rearing crises with compassion, casseroles and child care.
I saw women learn how to be leaders; learn how to develop an intricate organization that was part of an international movement; write policies and procedures.
I saw women struggle to talk through challenging issues such as trans-inclusivity; even if those struggles did not always lead to a consensus.
Taking it to the next generation
I also saw young girls look at these women with admiration for their strength and independence and with longing to be out on the track, too, which leads me to why I am writing this.
Skate At Home Mom, her partner, Mr. Kristi, and LaVallee of the Dolls hung up their roller skates in 2014, but did not give up their love of derby or their belief in what it can offer.
They have established Rideau Heights Junior Roller Derby to provide a roller derby camp for girls between the ages of 8 and 12 in Kingston’s north end, where kids often don’t have a lot of opportunity to participate in extra-curricular activities.
As the Rideau Heights Derby website says: “Beyond providing the obvious physical fitness, derby teaches sportsmanship, self-esteem, and a sense of community like no other sport.”
Because of the economic reality of Kingston’s north end, this roller derby camp will be offered at no cost to the participants.
The organizers have already received a grant from Awesome Kingston, which will cover the cost of insurance. Now, they are looking for donations so they can buy equipment for the skaters. All donors of $20 or more will be recognized for their generosity.
How you can help
And so, in a shameless act of family promotion, I am asking you to consider making a donation to the Rideau Heights Roller Derby by clicking here to read about what each donation level will buy. If there is someone on your festive season gift list who already has everything, perhaps they would like to be part of empowering the next generation of roller derby women.